Materials.Business Weekly ⚙️

September 22, 2020

Quote of the week: “What we usually consider impossible are simply engineering problems ... there is no law of physics to prevent them”. Michio Kaku (1947- ).

From The Editor's Corner

To minimize risk is imperative

Engineering Challenges

It is commonly accepted that engineers are in charge of solving practical problems efficiently. Nowadays, mainly associated with climate change, there are rapidly increasing natural disasters: fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados, heat waves, and so on. All of them are challenges waiting for engineering solutions, and engineers must be working for the right answers. Usually, human intervention on nature carries failure, and sometimes huge disasters happen too. This is the situation with the recent explosion of an ammonium nitrate deposit in Beirut, a very well understood phenomenon, fully avoidable from the technical point of view.

Prevention of failures is an engineer's duty

Many other times, human failures are due to a lack of knowledge about unexpected phenomena. A classic example is the “unsinkable ship”, the Titanic. According to the most probable hypothesis, its failure was due to low brittle resistance of the steel hulk at the low temperatures in the North Atlantic Ocean at the time of the trip. It was a true failure related to materials engineering and asset integrity management. Seven decades later, one more historic travel suffered an accident. It was the Challenger disaster, and here the problem was finally associated with materials deterioration and improper management of corrosion knowledge and prevention. It was clear that applying the available, it would have been entirely possible to avoid the corrosion-erosion of the rubber “O-ring” seals in the rocket booster, due to the direct contact with exhaust gases during lift-off. Again, a problem associated with behavior changes at low temperatures like the ambient temperature at the launching platform that day. Unfortunately, management problems continued, and the disaster of the Columbia spacecraft happened in 2003. Consequently, a report by the “Columbia Accident Investigation Board” made 27 recommendations that must be implemented before returning to flight, some of them as simple as “make long-term corrosion detection a funding priority” and “mitigate galvanic coupling between aluminum and steel alloys”.

Talking about travel accidents, there are examples of airplanes like the Aloha Airlines Flight 243, a Boeing 737-297 moving from Hilo to Honolulu in Hawaii, on 28.04.1988. According to the conclusions of the investigation, the problem was related to a deficient quality of inspection and maintenance. As a result, corrosion and fatigue problems acted together to generate the fuselage failure and the detachment of a piece of about 5.6 m. Also, aircraft crashes by corrosion phenomena as stress corrosion cracking, have been reported sometimes -Link-, reminding aeronautic sector managers and bosses that risk prevention is more than compulsory.

Lethargic problems

Usually forgotten corrosion problems are concerning shipwrecks. Nowadays, seabed harbors thousands of ships. In other words, a vast array of materials is prone to be corroded by the seawater, exposing the oceans to a current or potential flux of pollutants, affecting nature and life in particular. In some cases, this comes with a very serious risk due to the wreckage of a vessel containing huge amounts of poisons, explosives, chemicals, fuels (thousands of tons of oil, but also radioactive ones), and so on. Many of these more risky shipwrecks happened during the Second World War. That means about 70-80 years of the corrosion processes, acting permanently on such vessels. A lapse of time more than enough to be seriously concerned today. Unfortunately, there are not directly responsible for most of them, and the danger grows every day. How to minimize these risks? Corrosion engineers could give invaluable answers about that, assessing situations, and calling for action.

Small daily accidents

Most minor accident-related problems due to corrosive attacks go unnoticed to the general public because comprehensive investigations are not conducted, or that the results are handled internally at the companies themselves. It could be a boiler or piping explosion, the fall of a building, or any other part, equipment, or infrastructure exposed to an aggressive environment. Most of the time, failures are associated with a lack of a proper safety and maintenance program, as always.

More than true tragedies

Worse than the tragedy in Beirut, the world's worst industrial disaster, was the Bhopal (India) explosion, in 1994. Almost 3000 people passed away, and more than 400.000 was injured. Here, a pesticide plant released methyl isocyanate to the atmosphere as a consequence of the explosion of one of the storage tanks. This catastrophe was the final result of a series of failures and injuries along 25 years of the plan operation, mainly leakage of several toxic chemicals used. In general, the atmosphere in such kinds of plants is severely acidic and aggressive. Corrosion problems are hard to be avoided, and plan deterioration is easy to happen. This was the situation at the Bhopal plant, with poor safety and maintenance practices, and a lot of wrong decisions, including the substitution of stainless steel by carbon steel, and so on. One of the catalyzers for the beginning of the uncontrolled reaction was the presence of rust as impurities inside the MIC tank.

Again, this was the situation with some of the recent known disasters: The collapse of the Genoa (Italy) bridge in 2018, where corrosion of the concrete reinforcement was more than evident. Or one of the industrial explosions in Philadelphia, in 2019, where the corrosion of a pipe elbow released more than two tons of hydrofluoric acid, causing a massive fire and an explosion -Link-.

Supportive guidelines for risk prevention

Fortunately, corrosion and protection managers have a useful tool in front of their duties about safety and risk prevention. A fan of inspection options is available. Among them is Risk-Based Inspection (RBI), an inspection based on knowledge of the risk of failure, a risk analysis. It is considered the most efficient tool when looking for corrosion failure prevention -Link-.

In principle, RBI may be applied in any sector, always oriented to guarantee that personnel and population safety is not conditioned to financial or any other business concerns. There are some national and international standards acting as guidelines about RBI in specific sectors. The American Petroleum Institute has published the API RP 580 (Risk-based Inspection) Practice and the API RP 581 (Risk-based Inspection Methodology) for the Oil & Gas, refining, petrochemical, and chemical industries. The ASME PCC-3 2007 Standard (Inspection Planning Using Risk-Based Methods) is an alternative. In Europe, the RBIF-EN project included maintenance, further than in-service inspection, and extended the RBI methodology to other sectors. Without any doubt, risk control and prevention is an obligation that pays. Remember: Protection of materials and equipment is good business!

Prof. Carlos Arroyave, Ph.D. Editor.

Materials Biz News

Unusual Corrosion in Shale Wells

Bruce Craig, a Fellow of NACE International, recently published a paper oriented to explain unusually expected corrosion problems in gas and oil wells -Link-. The reported study was supported on some real field experiences about wells associated with the Permian Basin, USA. According to the author, the final conclusion is that high corrosion rates found in the analyzed cases could be due to the presence of H2SO4 from pyrite (FeS2) oxidation into the flow-back water.

Searching for better concrete evaluation techniques in the frame of a Triple Helix project

A consortium led by the Graz University of Technology and the Austrian Society for Construction Technology, including 14 additional Austrian companies, has been funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency. According to the researchers, the objectives of their efforts include the development of “a new, simple and cost-effective method that enables a detailed assessment of the condition of concrete structures on site as well as laboratory measurements with unprecedented precision.” Specific goals include a better assessment procedure of corrosion processes on concrete structures -Link-.

A new global LNG player

According to several analysts, Mozambique, a Southern African nation, is of the way to become a world leader in the natural gas market. Estimations are supported on the development of the offshore deposits at the Afungi peninsula, in Cabo Delgado province. Reserves in the Area 1 block have been calculated in 75 trillion cubic feet of recoverable fuel. The total estimated amount is over 125 trillion cubic feet. Operators include companies as Anadarko, Eni, Total, ExxonMobil, and the Empresa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos ENH (ENH) from Mozambique. Production beginning is expected for 2024 -Link-.

Beyond nanofabrication via nanoscale phase engineering of matter

With a contribution of €1.498.385 by the European Union, into the frame of the Horizon 2020 program, the European Research Council decided to support the above-mentioned project. The proposal was presented by the Department of Physics, in partnership with PoliFab, Politecnico di Milano’s Micro and Nanomanufacturing Centre -Link-. Its main goal will be direct to apply a new processing method, the so-called “phase nano-engineering” by using a nanometric heat source, looking for controlled phase changes at such scale. Expected results include very well-controlled physical properties at specific points of a new class of technological materials.

A new contract for Tite Liner® application

Aegion Corporation (USA) announced that a consortium between its subsidiary United Pipeline Systems Inc. and Special Technical Services (Oman) has got a US $5 Million Contract Extension to protect 400 km of pipelines, using Tite Liner® System in the Middle East -Link-. It is a renewal of an initial project concerning the application of the system along more than 700 km. The Tite Liner® system was developed 35 years ago by United Pipeline Systems Inc. It is a thermoplastic high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe liner, to be inserted inside the carbon steel pipeline to be protected from internal corrosion. A “low-cost, low-maintenance, and effective solution” according to the manufacturers -Link-. According to the prevision, the new project will be starting at the end of 2020 and finishing 12-18 months ahead.


Engineer, Risk-Based Inspection - Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company –ADNOC, is seeking a Mechanical/Metallurgical/Materials engineer, to be in charge of the implementation of RBI assessment programs, surveillance of corrosion problems, and investigation plans and projects.

Senior Industry Specialist - Washington DC, USA

The International Finance Corporation – IFC, a sister organization of the World Bank, is looking to recruit an expert to be engaged to its Global Energy uni. Such a person will be in charge of the technical assessment and development of new and portfolio power projects.

Research Group Leader - Otwock - Świerk, Poland

NOMATEN, The Centre of Excellence in Multifunctional Materials for Industrial and Medical Applications, in Otwock - Świerk (Warsaw, Poland), is offering a position as leader of a new research group responsible for arranging the team and to manage the development of a package of European projects concerning with novel radiopharmaceutical materials for medical applications.

Ph.D. and Postdoc Fellowships - Worldwide

Currently, it is open a call for applications oriented to help on the closing of the gender gap at university STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teachers in developing and emerging countries. This is an opportunity into the frame of the “Faculty of the Future Program” promoted by the Schlumberger Foundation.

Networking & Knowledge Exchange

Webinar: How to Maximize the Value of a Failure Analysis in the Oil and Gas Industry - Virtual

Element, a company specialized in failure prevention in the oil and gas industry, is inviting to attend the above-mentioned event, to behold two times, on September 24 and 28 2020.

Leak Detection and Third-party Impact Prevention Summit - Virtual

Virtual. October 7th, 2020. Organizers are inviting to the second meeting devoted to knowledge transfer, networking, and technology showcase on the subject (including themes as fiber optic sensing, leak detection pigs, remote sensing, illegal tapping, leak detection systems, and third-party impact).

Highly-functional Material Week - Virtual

Virtual. Reed Exhibitions Japan Ltd., supported by the Society of Polymer Science (Japan), is organizing an exhibition to behold from 7th- 9th October (Osaka), and 2nd – 4rd December (Tokyo) 2020. The event includes six shows related to films, plastics, metals, ceramics, adhesion & Fjoining, and paints & coatings.

Euro PM2020 - Virtual

Virtual. The European Powder Metallurgy Association – EPMA, invites to attend its next annual powder metallurgy conference, to behold from 5th – 7th October 2020. Themes to be considered include additive manufacturing, environment and sustainability, functional materials, hard materials and diamond tools, hot isostatic pressing, metal injection molding, materials and processes for specific applications, and press & sinter.